Monday, May 31, 2010

The University is Coming to be a Shadow of its Former Self

by anonymous

Mice are eating away at our libraries, which smell faintly of rot. Accordions of police barricades stand in for public sculptures. They greet our puzzlement with cold handshakes. The buzz of helicopters interrupts the hum of AV machines: unwelcome ostinatos. We are being privatized; this is how it feels.

We now know that the first to be fired in the name of efficiency will be custodial and dining service workers. Tuition increases will continue, and will continue to push members of the working classes away from our classrooms. We know that the acceptance rates for black and latina/o students are dropping sharply, while we are opening our doors to relatively wealthy out-of-state students. Shared governance is shattered, professors are leaving, and the UC Commission on the Future envisions squadrons of GSIs 'teaching' online classes to a pool of undergraduates who will be ushered away after three years.

This is the future we are being asked to accept. But we are having no part of it.

Our acts of refusal this past year have been varied, and have had various effects. Two such acts at UC Berkeley, my place of employment, have shown us our strength, and have helped set the agenda for the coming year: the occupation of Wheeler Hall in the fall, and the Hunger Strike in the spring.

The day after the Regents raised tuition by 32 percent, consigning our generation to a few thousand more years of debt, we opened up a vortex on campus by locking ourselves in Wheeler Hall and demanding that the University rehire laid off workers. Early in the morning, the chancellor emailed the campus claiming that the police were taking care of us; but late in the afternoon, we still hadn't left the building. We remained inside only because of the hundreds who were outside; chanting, pressing against police barricades, getting soaked, enduring beatings, refusing to leave. Our vortex had drawn out the passions of students and the solidarity of workers, who felt, perhaps unconsciously, that reclaiming space on campus was the proper response to the theft of our time.

Since then, those of us who locked ourselves in Wheeler Hall have been threatened with seven month suspensions. We are told that being suspended will be good for our personal growth and education. We are told that there are strict regulations on when, how, and where protests can take place. There is a Code of Student Conduct. We violated the Code. We are to be punished, re-educated, developed, fixed.

Remarkably though, the Administration is the only body on campus that seems to believe in this Code and its enforcement. In re-education. In a one hour window, per day, for amplified protest. The faculty, through the divisional council; the workers, through the unions; and the students, through the ASUC, have all called for our charges to be dropped. Those who work, study, and teach in the buildings on campus have thus begun to assert their own anti-code of conduct -- a 'code' that nurtures our capacity to protest and that treats buildings not as property to be guarded or capital to be efficiently employed but as public goods to be put to use in ways that are determined by, and that call forth, our collective passions.

Engaged students, workers, and professors are starting to formulate the principles of a free University -- a University that remains merely spectral at the moment. A shadow University. Traces of its possible realization inhabit our present; it's time for us to seize, turn over, and extrapolate these traces.

Late in the spring, another vortex opened up on campus. This one lasted ten days, and centered on the empty stomachs and wan faces of students & workers on hunger strike. The strikers began by demanding that the Administration demonstrate a bit of leadership by denouncing Arizona's recent anti-immigrant legislation, by declaring UC Berkeley a sanctuary campus, by rehiring workers, and by dropping conduct charges. But by the end of the strike, those who danced with empty stomachs saw the recalcitrant chancellors' mealy-mouthed words for the dead letters they were. A hand-drawn sign lingered in the branches of a tree: “fire admin” it read. We were done with them.

Our definitive break from the administration occurred a week into the strike, minutes before dawn. Police came to evict the hunger strikers. Yellow tape was stretched around the lawn in front of California Hall. The vice chancellor sent a mass email declaring that the strike had ended and that we were dispersed. But students and workers still weren't eating. And we were beginning to mass on the edge of the cordon.

From then on our presence was spectral, yet our force was real.

That day we blocked the doors of California Hall, held hands around the building, chanted, read aloud a faculty petition that “reject[ed] police interference into a non-violent protest,” marched across campus, sat and danced in front of the chancellors house. All day our numbers grew. All day we felt our collective power, and improvised with confidence. And in our practice we went beyond our words: we encircled California Hall not because we wanted crumbs from the chancellor, but to block the building; to shut it down. We were done with them; done with their bloated salaries and their fear of democracy; done with their hatred of organized labor, their plans to privatize us, and their cynical invocations of 'diversity.' We were done being ruled by capital's bureaucrats. We had different plans.

If the hunger strike put on the agenda the closure of California Hall, it also articulated a principle of student/worker protest that we will need to take seriously in the coming months: if it is to be emancipatory, such protest will necessarily look beyond the walls of the University. The strikers saw their protest as part of a regional struggle against racism and the criminalization of immigrants. They acted in concert with those in LA, Tucson, and Phoenix taking direct actions against SB1070 and the militarization of the border.

More solidarity actions of this sort are on the agenda for the coming year.

The governor of California has recently declared that, while higher education should be funded, welfare, childcare, mental health services, and services for people with disabilities should be eviscerated. This is not the 'victory' we were fighting for, and not only because it won't stop the Regents from raising our tuition. Our struggle is against privatization; against austerity measures that re-segregate the state and that make it harder for poor and working class people to get by. Such measures will continue to grind us down until, through collective struggle, we render them inoperative. And we will not stop fighting.

On campus, we will reclaim the spaces and times of our lives. On October 7th, our next day of action, we will initiate an indefinite strike, to be maintained until our shadow University has been made real.

Off campus, we will act in solidarity with those who are striking back against neoliberalism and mass racialized incarceration. We look forward to a statewide general strike, when the words on all our lips will be: “Let's get free.” When such a strike comes, we'll turn the Universities into ghost towns.

We'll be there in the streets,
and will see you there...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

UCPD Officer Williams (Badge #72)

One student organizer was threatened by UCPD Officer McWilliams (badge number 72). As McWilliams crumpled up a student banner, he said “I hope you like the face of the devil, because you’re going to be looking at it. The fucking cavalry is coming.”
Williams is on the right.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hella Cops @ Hunger Strike

... defending Birgeneau's house. All East Bay jurisdictions (UCPD, BPD, OPD, Alameda County Sheriffs) present and accounted for.

Hungry For Justice

Friday, May 7, 2010

ASUC Approves Resolution Against UCB Student Conduct Procedures

The bill was approved last night by the ASUC:
A Resolution in Critique of Student Conduct Procedures of the University of California

Authored by: Senator Patel
Sponsored by: Senators Patel, Gaurano, Kwon, Boone, Nava, Deleon, Saephan, Tang, Adem

WHEREAS, the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards is the campus body that enforces the Student Conduct Code; and,

WHEREAS, the stated mission of the Center of Student Conduct is, “the Center for Student Conduct and Community Standards (a component of Campus Life and Leadership) works to promote and maintain a high degree of academic integrity and standard of conduct, which are crucial in preserving a safe environment for students to pursue and accomplish their scholastic and personal goals,”

WHEREAS, the administration uses the Center for Student Conduct as a judicial process completely distinct from that of Alameda County, creating an extralegal tribunal to adjudicate punitive matters. These criminal matters are processed by the Alameda County justice system in accordance with California law and due process protections. Unlike the Alameda County criminal justice system, the Center for Student Conduct handles criminal charges with a total lack of legal expertise and the process affords students little to no protection for their rights.

WHEREAS, the Center for Student Conduct and the administration of this campus have been holding the threat of severe punishments such expulsion and suspension over the heads of many students in connection with the political demonstrations of the past two semesters.

WHEREAS, the student conduct procedure has been blatantly abused and is already riddled with flaws in the following ways:
1. The OSC is still pursuing charges against students which were dropped by the Alameda County D.A. for lack of evidence. There is little to no evidence tying any specific student to any specific charge in many cases yet the charges are being pursued anyway. This is known as double jeopardy.

2. Currently, the timeline for all student conduct procedures has been suspended indefinitely. Usually all cases are dealt with in a 75 day period. This creates an often undesired wait time for students who are going through the Student Conduct process.

3. The current Student Conduct process denies student’s rights to representation in formal hearings. Currently, advisors are allowed, but are relegated to a non-speaking role, which removes any possibility of proper representation.

4. Whereas Due Process in the justice system requires an evidentiary standard and a high burden of proof, the Center for Student Conduct has wide discretionary powers. The evidentiary standard, or the guideline for what kind of evidence is acceptable, is very vague. The burden of proof for finding a student responsible is "more likely than not," which is, by definition, the lowest possible burden of proof.

5. Despite the semblance of a judicial process, the Dean of Students has input throughout the process, and the final say on each case. There are no checks on the power of the dean to make punitive decisions except that of an appeal to his superior.

6. In many cases, the Center for Student Conduct has not been forthcoming with documents which they claim as evidence.
WHEREAS, the abuses of the process, the threats of severe punishments, and the lack of transparency and consistency in the process create a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech serve as a deterrent for future political action, while promoting an atmosphere of hostility.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Associated Students of the University of California is in solidarity with the expression of political opinion; and,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ASUC calls for a suspension of the flawed Student Conduct process pending adequate revision, rather than a suspension of the students, resolving that:
(a) Due to serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and fairness of the Student Conduct process, all charges against students involved in any political demonstrations in the past year be dropped,

(b) the ASUC supports sincere efforts towards an independent and democratic student-run review and reconsideration of the role of the Center for Student Conduct on campus.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Solidarity with the Hunger Strike!

"We've protested, we've held rallies, and now we have to go to an extreme form of protest," Corona said. "We were placed in an extreme position as a community, and we had to respond in an extreme manner."
(From the Chronicle)

AFSCME Workers Join Hunger Strike

Two members of AFSCME have joined the hunger strike at UC Berkeley, currently in its fourth day. This is especially significant given that student-worker solidarity seems to be one of the administration's greatest fears:
On Wednesday evening, it appeared a resolution was within reach to end the three-day hunger strike by students, workers and other members of the UC Berkeley community. The strike began Monday with demands of denouncing racist legislation in Arizona, creating a sanctuary campus and ending retaliation against student and worker activists (see next page for complete demands). As five negotiators were entering California Hall; Tanya Smith, the lone UC employee on the team, was denied entry into the building. “The police blocked the door and indicated that no union members would be allowed to enter,” said Smith; who also is the campus President of U.P.T.E., a UC union. “Then Isaac Castro, a fellow negotiator, came to join me outside and the police lost control”.

“When I saw that they blocked Tanya’s entrance, I decided to leave the building”, said Isaac Castro a fifth year student who is participating in the strike. “I guess they thought I was trying to prop the door open because they immediately brought me to the floor. After being detained for a few minutes they realized their mistake and let me leave. But I’m still shocked at how quick they were to restrain me when all I wanted to do was stand in solidarity with a worker on my campus. Why are they so afraid of students and workers joining together for this hunger strike?”

“Our demands are very reasonable and there is no need for these intimidation tactics by Vice Chancellor Breslauer and Chancellor Birgeneau”, says Kathy Vega, a 3rd year student majoring in Political Science. ”They have shown they never intended to discuss our demands. Our hunger strike is a completely non-violent act which will continue until all of our demands are met. From now on we will only negotiate with the Administration with our complete team, including UC workers”.
This is how UCB administrators treat students who haven't eaten in three days. Classy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Let Me Inform You...

Shorter Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s statement to UC Berkeley students involved in the hunger strike:
Let me inform you that not eating for 3 days might not be great for your health, and that I love diversity. Now, to your demands:

1. I'm happy to vaguely express displeasure with laws that are motivated by racis... i mean "deep racial divides." I will be sure to express my displeasure at some unspecified later date.

2. I could make it safe for undocumented students to come here, but that would make it unsafe for undocumented students to come here.

3. F.U. PS: I know all ya'll locked in Wheeler secretly pulled the Dwinelle fire alarms -- my magic-detecting cat told me so.

4. We are careful to only lay people off in humane ways.

5. If by "student-led" you meant "administration-led," then sure, you're on.

6. We put ads in the Daily Cal teaching you how not to get randomly beat up by cops, but you didn't learn.

Ok we're cool, right? So how about you get off my lawn so we can all get back to patenting more famine-inducing biofuel crops, k?

Statement from UC Berkeley Hunger Strike

Via email:
We, the hunger strikers of UC Berkeley, are calling out to all people of color, to our communities of color, to take a stand this Friday, May 7th at noon against racism and all the many forms that this oppression takes in our society. We call upon communities of color and all our allies to protest at locations of power, wherever it may be that you are best able to protest, whether that be an administration building or city hall. We must unite and let those in power know that we are standing together to oppose the criminalization of our communities. Let them know that we will not allow them to target workers for firings on our campuses through the misguided privatization policies of our campus administrations. Let them know that we will not allow them to target our fellow students that have stood up to them in past, that stand up to them in the present, and that will stand against them in future protests. Let them know that we are all one: workers, students, community members. Let it be known that we will not be divided.

The people in power do not think that we are a force to be reckoned with, they do not believe that our people will come together to oppose them. We began our hunger strike at noon on Monday and were met with abusive police tactics throughout the night. We were subjected to sleep deprivation, with threats of arrest if we were caught sleeping. The police would drive in circles around us throughout the night revving their engines and flashing their lights at our strikers as they huddled together for warmth. We did not break and will not break under these practices of torture.

Our administration told us that they would enter into discussions with us, but when we tried to bring in a representative of the workers, a member of our community, the doors were closed before her face. When one of the hunger strikers turned to leave in disgust, to leave this so called meeting, he was met with police force. One cop threw him to the steps twisting his arm behind him, while another cop knelt on his legs. We shall not be treated this way. As we sit here and see yet another hour pass of not eating, we now see that the police are coming out in numbers not yet seen, all armed with riot sticks...

As you read this know that students in a Los Angeles area high school have also begun a hunger strike in solidarity with the struggles of our communities in Arizona. They have decided that they will not end their hunger strike until we end the hunger strike at UC Berkeley. Know that the city of Oakland voted unanimously to boycott Arizona on May the 4th. Let us all come together and hold protests throughout the state, let our people in Arizona hear our cries of protest, that we will stand with them and not take this oppression any longer.

This is why we are calling upon our sisters and brothers, why we are encouraging everyone to protest and initiate hunger strikes at the offices of your campus administrations. The administration is afraid. They are afraid of our power as a community. On Friday at noon let us all stand together and show them our communities united in struggle.

In Solidarity & In Struggle,
the students on hunger strike at UC Berkeley
Rally Friday Noon California Hall.

Monday, May 3, 2010

La Raza Hunger Strike Begins at UC Berkeley

[See updates below]

In front of California Hall. Here's the current word on demands:
- Rehire the 21 laid off janitors
- Formally denounce SB 1070
- Drop all conduct charges against student protesters
- Make Berkeley a sanctuary campus
More to come...

Update: Rally at 7pm in front of California Hall! Spread the word.

Update II: Here's a more complete list (via email):
Hey all,

As of Noon today the Chican@/Latin@ community at Cal, which includes RAZA, Mecha, Xinaxtli etc have called for a Hunger Strike in front of California Hall in response to the new Arizona SB1070 Law and to the charges imposed on student protesters this year (many of whom will be suspended starting next semester). There will be a rally at 7PM and an organizing meeting at 4PM. We will be needing the most support TONIGHT as they plan to camp out and police will most likely be involved.

The demands are as follows:

1) Publicly denounce Arizona’s SB1070 Law and ask President Yudof and other UC Chancellors to do the same as such blatant signs of racism are not representative of the values of the UC education system.

2) Implement the promised AB540 Taskforce to begin Fall 2010 and to include student representation.

3) Drop ALL the charges against student activists in the year 2009-2010, particularly those charged with student conduct beginning in November 20th and December 11th 2009. Drop any and all student conduct charges related to protest actions that occurred during the academic year 2009-10.

4) Stop cuts to low-wage workers on campus and stop attacks against union activists; rehire all AFSCME service workers and UPTE union activists and Cal performances employees.

5) Suspend the Student code of conduct and initiate a democratic student-led process to review the code. Those participating in this process should be charged with attending particularly to concerns about students’ due process rights and to free speech considerations. If, through this review, it is determined that a new code can be written in any way that adequately addresses these concerns, a new code should be written by a democratic, student-led body. If not, the student code of conduct should be abolished.

6) Accept responsibility for the violence and escalation of the confrontation surrounding Wheeler Hall on November 20th and December 11th 2009 that resulted in injuries to many students and jeopardized the safety and security of AB540 students. Additionally, commit to using non-violent means of ensuring safety at student demonstrations in the future.

Come provide your support and bring plenty of water!
Update III- 11pm, Monday: About 20 students are participating in the hunger strike, with about 20-30 more supporting them. UCPD officers on the scene are apparently saying that strikers will be arrested if they fall asleep. Stay strong!

Here's an initial report in the Chronicle.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Jurisdiction and the Territorialization of Student Conduct


Like all regimes of law (or quasi-law), the UC Berkeley Code of Student Conduct corresponds to a particular spatial jurisdiction, within which it is considered to be in effect and therefore applicable [1]. What is the nature, and what are the contours, of this space?

To begin, however, we must take a step back and start with a different question. What is conduct? According to the Code, the university constitutes a “community of scholars” governed by “rules of conduct intended to foster behaviors that are consistent with a civil and educational setting” (1). Although this “civil and educational setting” remains undefined, what is clear is that the Code is aimed at regulating the practices of those who participate within the scope of the university community. This formulation points to an initial, reflexive reading of the term conduct: what is at stake is the way in which one “conducts oneself.” That is, the Code (like the law) presumes to produce self-regulating subjects, or rather, certain kinds of subjectivities that become embodied in everyday practices. Here, a second understanding of conduct as transitive verb, one that suggests directionality or purpose, emerges: to “conduct something” is to advance it along a determined path. The Code of Student Conduct, then, is an apparatus designed to produce (student) subjects that are simultaneously subject to and defined by the privileges and restrictions accorded to that particular subjectivity.

The Code’s target, in other words, is the student body. It is telling that the administrators of the Office of Student Conduct consistently talk about the disciplinary process as “developmental.” As a biological metaphor, development reads the student body as unfinished material, as pre-person, as person-to-be. Thus, the Code’s language of “fostering” the development of the student body must be read as part of a matrix of evolutive images and ideologies that ground the legitimacy of the Code and its Office.

But the student body is not only the target of the Code: it is also the jurisdiction of the Code.

Jonathan Poullard's Anti-Student Union

Dear UCMeP Faithful,

As we all are well aware, the University of California is currently going through a profoundly profitable rebranding process. Administrators and government officials alike are working hard and getting paid top dollar to transform our beloved university from a decrepit bastion of free speech and what Ronald Reagan once called “a hotbed of communism and homosexuality” to something a bit more upstanding.

Like insects of the Lepidoptera order that magnificently metamorphose from dull and ugly caterpillars into graceful butterflies, so too is the UC finally coming into its own by changing beyond all recognition. Once UC has made it through the growing pains of this transformation (we like to call it an “educational process”), the university will be but a shell of its former self — leaner, meaner, less diverse, with far fewer students!

In an effort to better reflect UC Berkeley’s emerging identity, the UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP) is spearheading a direct action campaign to rename prominent campus buildings in honor of those who are most responsible for the new direction UC Berkeley is currently barreling down.

With this said, UCMeP is wasting no time. On May 5, 2010 we will change the name of UC Berkeley’s “Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union” to “Jonathan Poullard’s Anti-Student Union.” This new moniker recognizes the inspiring commitment our Dean of Students has repeatedly demonstrated to revoking the civil rights of students at UC Berkeley.

By overseeing the extra-legal prosecutions of over 100 students for their misguided activist efforts to defend public education, Mr. Poullard has gone above and beyond the call of duty (not to mention the law) to ensure that students are not guaranteed the same rights and privileges afforded to them by kangaroo courts of law like the US Supreme Court. Along with his faithful companions Susan Tregaser, Christina Gonzalez, and Jeff Woods, the ironically titled “Dean of Students” has worked tirelessly to create a second class of students on our fair campus. Moreover, Mr. Poullard never hesitates to remind us that contrary to the US Constitution, free speech is not a right but in fact a privilege that must be policed at all times and revoked when it conflicts with the interest of the property-owning minority.

Let’s be honest, figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Mario Savio, and Cesar Chavez (and the struggles for social justice and equal rights they represent) are – thankfully – a thing of the past. In their place stand a brave, new cohort of mid-level administrators dressed whose dedication to turning a blind eye to all ethical systems is nothing if not impressive. These heroes will undoubtedly be the names and faces our children and grandchildren read about in their history books.

In eager anticipation, then, we invite you to show your support for Jonathan Poullard and the metamorphosis he represents by joining us on Sproul Plaza this Wednesday, May 5 at 1:30PM for a dedication ceremony and inaugural ribbon cutting of the new “Anti-Student Union.”

We do hope you can join us to celebrate of this man’s innumerable noble accomplishments. And we encourage you to use the attached photo as your profile picture on Facebook in honor of Mr. Poullard.

Faithfully Yours,